Every writer, no matter what skill level they’re in, has writing advice to give. I see some very good advice, and I see some very bad advice. We take it or we leave it. Here is mine–the absolute authority on writing good*:
1. The best way to open up a novel is with a stormy night. A dark one. You want to create drama and tension. How much more dramatic and tense can one get than a dark and stormy night? It’s just logic.
2. Write what you know. If you’re going to write about sky-diving, you’d best be prepared to jump out of a plane. No amount of research is going to give you the same experience. Hey, we’re supposed to be willing to die for our art. You’re no exception.
3. Show, don’t tell–bah, humbug! You have to tell your story, right? Sheesh! Just get it on the page; your reader isn’t going to notice anyway.
4. No matter how many times you’ve submitted your 1000 page novel to the same agent, remember the old adage: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! She probably doesn’t remember you from one submission to the next. One of these days she’s actually going to read your submission and know what a find she has on her hands.
5. There can never be enough description. Why would you simply write: Her hem caught on a nail as she hurried through the door? What color was that dress? Was there beading? Empire waist? Low cut? Was there a bustle? Embroidery? Was it silk brocade or plaid woolens? Buttons? How many? Get every detail of the dress!! And while you’re at it, describe the door, and the floor, and the sort of nail her hem caught on. And don’t forget to pepper a few adverbs into it, as well as a word or two your reader is going to have to look up later on. All these things show your reader just how much you know about fashion and cloth, doorways and nails. AND, it proves just how well you can put words together! Believe me, your readers will be impressed!
6. Address the reader once in a while, just so he doesn’t forget that you, the author, is actually telling the story she’s reading–otherwise she might forget about you altogether, and that’s not very fair.
7. Before you ever start writing your novel, make up a list of the many alternatives to “said.” Said gets boring! You need to shout, exclaim, cry, hiss, boom, retort, echo, rejoin, question and vociferate! You get extra agent/publisher points if you never use the same word twice.
8. Grammar is for the hoity-toity, not real writers. You gotta write the way you speak or no one’s gonna take you for serious.
9. Feedback. Many writers give over their finished drafts to beta readers (a practice I do not advise you engage in.) These beta readers, even friends, will feel they have to find something wrong; and they inevitably will. They’ll mark up your manuscript with their opinion and foolish notions of plot holes (which your novel simply does not have) and pacing and characterization, grammar mistakes (but I’ve already established who grammar is for, so…) Sure they’ll throw in a few nice things or a smiley face. But remember! No one knows your story the way you do. Stick to your guns, defend your baby fiercely, even if they all gang up on you by agreeing on things–gasp–wrong with your baby. Know that they’re just jealous of your work and will do anything to thwart your efforts of obtaining an agent or publisher before they do. Don’t let it happen to you!
10. Most importantly, don’t attempt to write when there are elephants in your living room. No matter how they promise not to make noise, they will. And, if left to their own devices, they’ll poop on your floor. Elephants are just like that.
*Just in case you haven’t gotten it yet, this is all tongue-in-cheek. Spoofish. Foolish. Fun.